Cuban Missile Crisis - EX COMM and The Crisis

EX COMM and The Crisis (Illustration) The Kennedys Russian Studies American Presidents Famous Historical Events Government Social Studies Cold War Law and Politics American History

White House photographer Abbie Rowe took this picture of President Kennedy meeting with "Ex Comm" members on October 18, 1962. JFK is seated mid-way on the right side of the table. His brother, Robert Kennedy, is at the front-right of the picture. Along the wall are the easels which intelligence analysts used to display U-2 photos of Soviet missile-building sites in Cuba. Photo 79-AR-7550-C maintained by the U.S. National Archives.


"Ex Comm" (short for Executive Committee) was the group of senior advisers who met with the President throughout the Missile Crisis.

Of the participants—(including George Ball, McGeorge Bundy, Lyndon Johnson, Bobby Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, Doug Dillon, General Maxwell Taylor, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Curtis LeMay (front, left)—many were "hawks" during the first day of the crisis.

By the 18th of October, the President needed to meet with a Soviet representative. Although it was not time for the Soviets to know the Americans were "on to them," the President discussed Soviet intentions in Cuba. Advancing the "defensive weapons only" argument, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko denied America had cause for concern.

During the late morning, JFK meet with Ex Comm. Members discussed various options, including a naval quarantine [euphemism for blockade] of Cuba.

At the end of the meeting, the President recorded a summary of the day's discussions. Let's listen-in.

The next day, General LeMay urged the President to take out the missiles by air strike. Concerned about that approach, the President concedes:

I don't think we have any satisfactory alternatives.

 The problem for the President, of course, was not just offensive nuclear missiles located so close to America. If he initiated military action against Cuba, what would the Soviets do in Berlin? The President's overriding concern was:  As Cuba goes, so goes Berlin.

European allies cared a lot more about Berlin than they cared about a small island thousands of miles away. JFK said he didn't want U.S. Allies to view his country as "trigger-happy Americans." (Follow the link to hear the Ex Comm discussion.)

Meanwhile, more U-2 missions disproved Gromyko's assurances. Construction at the missile launch sites (including those for the longer-range SS-5) was accelerating.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Mar 12, 2017

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"EX COMM and The Crisis" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2002. Feb 27, 2020.
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